Friday, April 29, 2011

Straight shooter: With civilian tolerance barely hanging by a thread, the Kashmir valley sits on a powder keg

After Irom Sharmila last year, Anna Hazare wins IIPM's 2011 Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize of Rs. 1cr. To be handed over on 9th May

Syed Salahuddin, the head of Hizbul Mujahideen, tells TSI that the only way to diffuse it is to give the Kashmiris what they want while clearing the air about the misgivings around Islam

Why do you feel that Kashmir will be happier with Pakistan?
For years, the people of Kashmir have been pleading to grant them Islampeaceful lives. But peace not at the cost of freedom and independence. My question is that why aren’t the people of Kashmir asked as to what they want? I am not only talking about plebiscite. Isn’t it clear that when the people are granted their wishes, then peace will automatically come? Either grant them their wishes soon or get ready for another battle.

In the last elections, Kashmiris had participated in a big way. Also, some separatist leaders had lost. Isn’t this a sign that Kashmiris want a democratic set up and perhaps a resolution through a democratic process?

There were candidates from National Congress who had gone to BBC and said that even they want independence of Kashmir. And this time it’s the issue of administrative affairs. There is no infrastructure in Kashmir, there is no water, no electricity, no peace…to solve these issues people vote. But the candidate should fulfill the commitments made to the voters. The very fact that people have come out on streets, youngsters are pelting stones are signs that people are frustrated.

India won freedom through Gandhi’s values of non-violence and in South Africa, the apartheid was abolished by peaceful means. Going by these examples, do you feel that if people of Kashmir protest peacefully, it will be more effective?

I agree. In India wherever there is a specialist movement, whether in Nagaland or Assam or Manipur, the approach of India is different from that of Kashmir. From June 11, Kashmiris have been using stones. They did not use any bullets. The question is why have the youth been targeted by the forces? I see that India does not have a friendly or humane approach towards the Kashmiris. There is only one demand that the armed forces (and the draconian law) should be removed from Kashmir. We have all weapons and we can strike any part of India. But when Kashmiris came out on roads, we decided that we would not fire. If people want an unarmed protest and if by that way the demand is fulfilled, we will be the happiest. The day India wants to sit on the table and discuss about what Kashmiris want, we will support, insha Allah.

Do you believe that division on the basis of religion is a bad idea?

I do not agree with this. I will say that Islam is not a religion. Islam is a comprehensive code of conduct. It is unfortunate that Islam is being projected in a wrong way. It accords highest respect to non-Muslims. According to Islam, no one can be forced or pressurised to become a Muslim. The way communism and socialism are ideologies, Islam is an ideology. If Pakistan would have become Islamic Pakistan, then Bangladesh would not have happened. I am not in favour of the Islam that exists today. I am in favour of the Islam that was preached by the Prophet Mohammed.

Recently in Delhi, some tourists were attacked and a bomb exploded near Jama Masjid. It was later said that the attackers were from Indian Mujahideen (IM) and they did it for Kashmir. What would you say?

I do not agree. When we fight we call it jihad or holy war. It has a principle– don’t kill any old person, don’t lift your hand on any young kid and don’t look at any woman, fight with your enemy only if he fights. We cannot fight against non-belligerents. If I have waged a war, then Indian forces should fight with me. But then instead they attack my family. Now this reaction leads to what IM did. But still I would say targetting civilians with bombs is not jihad.

Many people in the world and in India want to visit Kashmir. But then they have a fear. What would you want to say to the Indians?

First, the politicians and people should not misunderstand us. We are fighting for a cause. We are not against India... we are against the hegemony and the forces and the policies of India. We want both India and Pakistan to live peacefully. I request India that Allah ke liye Kashmiriyon ka mamla samjhe (for God’s sake understand the Kashmiris' issues) and accept what the Kashmiris want.

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